Marika Dunne (Student)

portrait of outside with paper and colored pencils Marika Dunne

Even though Marika Dunne has family in Washington, D.C., and visits often, she had never stepped foot in the U.S. Capitol. That all changed, however, with eight days of hard work and dedication.

Dunne – an entering freshman architecture major in Mississippi State University’s Shackouls Honors College – was encouraged last year by her Starkville High School art teacher, Andrew Lark, to enter the 2017 National Congressional Art Competition.

With the deadline closing in, Dunne took over her family’s dining room and went straight to work every day after school for eight days.

“Starting is by far the hardest part,” she said.

But she soon completed her piece, a white charcoal pencil still-life drawing on black paper, which she titled “Southern Silver.”

“We could submit any type of art, but my favorite is realistic, fine art,” the daughter of James and Demetra Dunne said. “I like that it’s possible to make something look real.”

She credits Lark for that skill.

“He taught me so much about how to do a piece like that – how to shade objects and make them feel real,” she said. “And, it was his composition that I drew.”

Dunne was shocked when she found out she won Best in Show for the state’s Third Congressional District.

“I was just so honored to have won, but then I found out it came with more,” she said.

Along with winning, Dunne’s work will represent U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Mississippi, and will hang in one of the hallways of the Capitol for the entire year.

She also received four one-way tickets courtesy of Southwest Airlines, which she cashed in for two round-trip tickets to D.C. for her mother and her to see the exhibit and take part in the competition’s reception.

“Congressman Harper took us on an amazing tour of the building,” she said. “I was just really impressed by how he took time out of his day to talk to us and show us around.”

Dunne said this was her first real composition work, and it has given her further confidence in her abilities as she immerses herself in her first year of architecture school.

“It showed me that if I really stick with it, I can get something done and make it look real if I remember to focus on what that object is in real life,” she said.

The competition also has given her a new outlook on life.

“It was so cool to walk around the Capitol and know that I did something to get there,” she said. “Through the rest of my life, I will be trying to do stuff to get me somewhere – not wait around and let stuff happen.”

Marika Dunne, pictured with U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper.